I morphed from land shark to mermaid in four days on Gili Air. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was, and then how simple. Something had to click in my mind. Then, like magic, I could fin down to 16 meters on a single breath-hold.
Most sports require strength and endurance, but freediving is different.
Freediving is more mental than anything else I’ve tried.
The concept is to train yourself to get deeper and deeper on a single breath of air. Why would anyone want to do that? I’m glad you asked!
- Many fish are scared of the bubbles from a scuba regulator. Have you ever noticed that when you snorkel, the fish get closer? The only problem with snorkeling is, you’re stuck at the surface. Freediving brings the best of both worlds together.
- There’s less gear involved. You only need fins, weights, a mask and snorkel, and you’re golden.
- It builds up mental endurance. I didn’t grasp this benefit until I began practicing freediving. Now I can see how much of it is predicated on relaxation and calmness. The body’s alarm bells go off, but you learn to meditate through it. This is beneficial above water, too.
- It’s the closest thing to being a mermaid, and that was my chief reason, TBQH.
Once I’d made that decision, choosing where to do the course came next. For those familiar with the blog, I’m in love with Lombok in Indonesia and the Gilis off the coast are known for good freediving courses. I went with Freedive Flow based on the positive reviews and because I prefer Gili Air to Gili Trawangan. It’s calmer and more chilled. I love me some chilled.
Day one was about understanding why the body feels the urge to breathe even when oxygen levels in the blood are still healthy. Next we practiced a ‘static breath hold’ in the pool. My longest was 2:30, which surprised me! I figured I’d be up after less than a minute. So far, so good with the relaxation.
Then we hit the open water, which was completely different. For me, it resulted in hitting a road block. You can see more in the video:
After a failed first day of trying to get down, I knew it came down to practice. Like most things, getting good at freediving would mean I needed more open water time. I had to shelf my frustration and keep trying.
I hopped on my bike and cycled to the sunset, as I would every evening on Gili Air. It must be a rule written somewhere: There are no bad sunsets on this island.
Nothing can turn my mood around quite like a good sunset.
The next day I had similar troubles, failing to get past the first meter on my first three dives. For someone who is used to equalizing while scuba diving, it can be difficult to change techniques for freediving.
I knew I had to change my approach.
I floated face down in the water watching the light beams dart through the blue. I relaxed each part of my body starting with my eyes, moving down to my jaw, my neck, chest, arms, and onward. Relax, relax, relax. It was a ploy to distract my mind.
“This is just for fun,” I reminded myself, “there’s no competition here.”
With the pressure off of my mind, I could finally release it in my ears. It was like a switch flipped and I could finally equalize. I got down to 7 meters, then to ten, and then to twelve. The next day, I made it down to 16, completed my rescue dive, and buddy dived several times as well.
From one moment to the next it went from ‘can’t’ to ‘doing it!’
I can see now why freediving is addictive. It’s like entering into a new state of consciousness.
The urge to breathe is fierce, and it takes mental strength to get over it. Thankfully it can be learned, and any healthy person can do it.
I’m hooked now, and I know I can go deeper. That’s what I aim to do, little by little.
I’m so excited to have taken this first step towards becoming a mermaid. If you’re tempted to try it for yourself, do it. I promise you’ve never done anything like it.
*This post was brought to you in partnership with Freedive Flow. Feelings towards mermaiding are my own.